Skåne’s largest city, and the third largest city in Sweden as a whole (after Stockholm and Gothenburg), Malmö has been a site of settlement since the C12th, and played important roles in the long-running wars with Denmark over the possession of the region. This history, and much of that which was to follow, can be traced here in the city’s historical heart, with Malmöhus slott marking the western extent of the fortified core of the original city.
The majority of surviving buildings in gamla staden are nowhere near as old as the castle, of course, but they do represent many of the architectural eras since the castle was built, and the canal that encases the area roughly retraces the C18th fortifications. As is to be expected of the historical core of an old and important city, gamla staden is the commercial and cultural heart of Malmö, and a hotspot for both tourism and local nights out. The flipside of that, of course, is that the cultural offerings can seem rather middle-of-the-road, and/or glossed with a hokey historical gloss which bears little connection to fact. While it’s not as bad as it was three decades or so ago, perhaps, there is still a definite sense of homogeneity to all European city centres: while the architectural skin may vary, the commercial flesh beneath is much the same.
So by all means take some time to see the slott, have a coffee and kanelbulle on either Stortorget (Big Square) or Lilla Torg (Small Square), and browse the surviving high-end retail outlets (if your credit rating will get you through the doors). But there’s far more character to be found elsewhere—after just fifteen minutes on foot (or five by bike), you could be promenading along Ribersborg beach, soaking up the slightly seedy bohemian vibes of Västra Hamnen, or wandering the left-of-center enclave of Kirseberg. The truly daring might even decide to to investigate the intentional communities of Östra Hamnen‘s docklands—though they’d be advised not to wear their best shoes, and to familiarise themselves with the local protocols first.
And there’s plenty more to explore a little further south, too; why not start at the old square in Möllevången, and see where you end up!